LynSharratt PhotoDo you know all your students and how each one is doing? Have you put the FACE on the data in order to have cognitive insights and make emotional connections with each student? I feel very strongly that Data Walls provide a visual representation of where our students are in their learning journey in the assessment area chosen to be displayed. The advantages of Data Walls are many when they move from being a static picture in time to being a living conversation piece.

Beginners may experiment with Data Walls that are easily put together using student assessment data from a purchased assessment tool such as PM Benchmarks, DRA Data, EQAO or NAPLAN results. These are valuable beginnings and provide opportunities for rich conversations about what instructional strategies will be needed for all students: those stuck, those struggling and those who need extending beyond their present grade level. The visual representation of every FACE on the Data Wall will prevent some students from falling out of sight – out of mind. In order for these visual reminders to become living, growing and thriving, these Data Walls need constant focus on being growth-promoting. They need to move from being stilted snapshots to living entities; from being pretty displays of beautiful FACES to becoming evidence and documentation of problem-solving strategies agreed upon by all teachers who teach each student.

Data Walls become more in-depth when the assessment tool used to put the FACES on the data is teacher developed, focused on student work and collaboratively assessed to agreed upon levels of the work. The documentation of this work invites inquiry into students thinking and raises questions for teachers and leaders about best, high yield instructional practices for all students: necessary for some – good for all.

Questions for us to consider in moving from Data Walls as displays to Data Walls as documentation of next steps are:

  • Does the Data Wall focus on learning or just something we did?
  • Does the Data Wall help us re-examine our practice?
  • Does the Data Wall raise questions that lead to action
  • Does the Data Wall lead us to an inquiry about strengthening some aspects of our practice?
  • Does the Data Wall focus on the process and the product?
  • Does the Data Wall lead to rich conversations and “Academic Controversy”?
  • Does the Data Wall lead us to want to know more about a certain aspect?
  • Does the Data Wall lead to a new, more precise Data Wall being built?
  • How can Data Walls be used by students to become “assessment capable” and own their own learning?
  • Does the Data Wall allow the builders to become critical of it and cause it to be redesigned?
  • Does the Data Wall enable us to conduct Collaborative Inquiry to benefit the System – School – Classrooms

In order to be value-added, Data Walls MUST show growth and achievement. The value-added is when Data Walls are co-constructed, all FACES are jointly owned, and the ensuing rich discussions and academic controversy move teachers and leaders from engagement to empowerment.


Follow the author on Twitter: @LynSharratt and #FACESLyn

This post was written by Lyn Sharratt for The Learning Exchange (formerly LearnTeachLead). 

© Dr. Lyn Sharratt, February 26, 2016

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While gains in student achievement occur inside the classroom and are directly influenced by the effectiveness of the teacher, large system change, in owning every student, is only possible when everyone in the organization sees him- or herself as responsible for the success of each student. Each class contributes to the school targets, each school contributes to the system targets, and each system contributes to the state targets.

One way to assess how we are making a difference for each student is to check for deep use of assessment “for” and “as” learning by asking five critical questions that I first asked students and now ask teachers and leaders as well:

  1. What are you learning?
  2. How are you doing?
  3. How do you know?
  4. How can you improve?
  5. Where do you go for help? (Lyn Sharratt Learning Walks and Talks Training Materials, 2008-2015)


School leaders who do daily Learning Walks and Talks (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009, 2012; Sharratt & Harild, 2015, Sharratt & Planche, 2016 (In Press)) gather evidence of teachers’ intentional teaching and of students’ improvement when they ask students the five questions above. Students who can accurately describe their learning, and how to improve, close the achievement gap. After many walks, conversations with teachers ensue. Leaders ask authentic questions about why teachers make the decisions they make. Leaders also take action if teaching is not occurring at a competent or preferably high-impact level. Action must be taken if students are not progressing at an expected rate (Sharratt & Harild, 2015, Chapter 4).


The Power of Five Questions is in answer to the question “How Do You Know All Students’ are learning?” System and school leaders at every level who ask students the five questions get feedback on how explicit the instruction is and improvement is progressing. They use that feedback to become a large and focused part of every Professional Learning session, which is critical for all teachers and leaders to craft collaboratively. Taking daily Learning Walks and Talks to ask learners the five questions is essential. Similarly, ensuring that teachers have the time to reflect on the firm foundation necessary for all students’ mastery of reading, writing, oral language, and problem-solving skills to answer the five questions provides the springboard needed to incorporate the 21st-century learning skills into the curriculum content.


Sharratt, L. (2008-2015). Learning Walks and Talks [Training materials]. Australia, Canada, and Chile.

Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2009). Realization: The change imperative for deepening district- wide reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting FACES on the data: What great leaders do. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Harild, G. (2015). Good to great to innovate: Recalculating the route K–12+. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Planche, B. (2016, in press). Leading collaborative learning: Empowering excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Using data to inform instruction

We are intent on ensuring that all students in every class have an opportunity to learn. A key mechanism every teacher has available to assure that every child is learning is up to date data on each child’s performance. Whether standardized, large-scale or in-class generated, the data can provide critical insights to the teacher who is professionally sure how to use it and confident in proceeding. Can we any longer stand by as teachers, administrators or elected officials report that “only x%” of their students did not make standard? Can we standby and not find ways to encourage or persuade our districts and teachers to use the data to determine with precision how to help each child? Can we standby knowing that many teachers simply don’t know how to mine the data they have in their daily planners? Lyn Sharratt